The number of pedestrian fatalities in Hawaii dropped in 2006 as police got tough on drivers who didn’t yield at crosswalks.
There were 29 pedestrian deaths throughout the state in 2006, a decrease from the 36 deaths in 2005, according to the state Department of Transportation. Of those, 19 pedestrians were killed on Oahu this year compared to 26 last year.
This year’s total was the lowest since 2003, when 23 pedestrians died statewide.
But other statistics show that Hawaii still had the 11th-highest pedestrian fatality rate in the country, which is better than in 2004 when Hawaii ranked fourth in the nation. The state also had the highest death rate among pedestrians aged 65 and older.
Police claim that increased patrols and enforcement, as well as educational outreach efforts, led to the decline.
Public awareness of Hawaii’s tougher pedestrian laws that require drivers to stop and yield to pedestrians contributed to the drop in deaths, said Transportation Department spokesman Scott Ishikawa.
The Honolulu Police Department issued 2,157 citations to motorists and pedestrians for violating street-crossing laws through Thursday, said Traffic Division Maj. Susan Dowsett. Jaywalkers who disobey traffic signals also are being targeted.
“Officers are instructed to take enforcement action or educate the violator,” Dowsett said.
Several other pedestrian safety efforts may have helped make Hawaii’s streets safer.
The state’s Walk Wise Hawaii education program is credited with increasing awareness of traffic safety. The program, which focuses on keeping senior citizens safe when they cross the street, spent about $100,000 for public service announcements and other educational materials last year.
This year, federal money will be available through the Safe Routes to School program, which is aimed at parents and school-age children, Ishikawa said.
Gov. Linda Lingle is expected to introduce pedestrian-friendly legislation that may involve toughening penalties, said spokesman Russell Pang.
Drivers who violate the crosswalk law currently are fined $97, while jaywalkers must pay $70.
It will take time to change the prevalent “Me vs. Them” relationship that many drivers have toward pedestrians, Ishikawa said.
“It’s kind of an attitude change really,” he said. “We’re just going to have to remind that they both need to watch out for each other.”
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